Sutter was thoroughly tested for lymphoma because his symptoms “were all matching up” with the cancer, his wife Trista said

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During the yearlong search for answers as Ryan Sutter dealt with a mystery illness, he and wife Trista considered many possible diagnoses — including cancer.

Ryan and his doctors have since determined that he has Lyme disease that was worsened by exposure to mold toxins, but at one point the couple, who met on the first season of The Bachelorette, believed that he may have lymphoma, a cancer centered in the lymphatic system.

"At that point you were still having the night sweats, you were fatigued, your white blood cell count was low. So those were all matching up with lymphoma," Trista, 48, recalled on her podcast Better, Etc. "So I advocated and I called the doctor you had seen when you got that initial blood work in June, and said, how can we get him in to an oncologist."

Trista and Ryan Sutter
Ryan and Trista Sutter
| Credit: Noam Galai/Getty

Trista was able to get Ryan an appointment with an oncologist — which she notes is difficult to do without already having a cancer diagnosis — and they did a full CT scan from his neck to his groin to check all of his lymph nodes for signs of cancer.

"That came back negative, which was good," Ryan, 46, said.

But it was both good news and bad, he added.

"It was a weird feeling, because your cancer screening comes back negative and you're like, well that's great, I don't have cancer, but then on the other side of that is well, what do I have?" he said. "There's still no answers, and you're still not feeling any better. It's not like they cured whatever was going on, they just eliminated one potential source, and a significant source."

And the process of getting checked out for cancer was extremely frustrating, the Sutters said.

"It just continued to demonstrate the difficulty in exploring answers," Ryan said. "You have to get doctors to advocate for you, and you have to work through the insurance company, because the insurance company is not going to pay for it unless the doctors, and not only your doctors but their doctors, have to review the case."

"It took forever to get the CT scan, and so meanwhile you're sitting there thinking, well, do I have cancer? And if I do have cancer, then shouldn't I be starting to treat it, but you're not, because you're waiting for this sort of bureaucratic process to happen."

Plus, Ryan pointed out, "we had probably a lot of advantages that other people don't have, and we were still having a really difficult time working through and navigating this process."

The scan for lymphoma was in late 2020, and it took many more blood tests and doctors' appointments before Ryan received a clear diagnosis for his health problems. The Colorado-based firefighter now knows that he has Lyme disease that his body was unable to fight because his immune system has been weakened from exposure to mold toxins, and he has also tested positive for having COVID-19 at some point in the last year and Epstein-Barr virus, which causes mononucleosis.

Ryan is now working on treating his illnesses and is starting to see improvements. For Lyme disease, patients can go on a "pretty heavy dose" of multiple antibiotics for several weeks, but he opted to instead try making dietary changes.

"What I'm doing is avoiding, as best I can, gluten, dairy and refined sugars," he said. "I've added a ton more fruits and vegetables to my diet, things that are easily digestible … I've gone on specific diets and things to try to alleviate a lot of those things so my internal organs can function more efficiently and begin to fight back some of these viruses and bacteria that they were able to hold back prior to going through this last year."